Google Pixel

This is my first impression/early review of my experience with the new Google Pixel Android phone after a little more than one week of heavy usage. Finally got my Otterbox Defender case in the mail on Saturday so I feel much safer using the phone.

Things I enjoy:

    • It’s so fast. My 3.5 year old Samsung Galaxy S4 was at times completely unresponsive, so this is a huge change.
    • I know that this is just in my head, but having a new highly responsive phone makes my interactions with my home and work computers feel faster as well. I wonder if anyone has studied this effect before.
    • It has a headphone jack.
    • Slow motion footage is fun to play with and the interface is easy to use. The stabilization is also extremely convenient and works surprisingly well. This was taken at the dog park right after sunset:

  • The camera experience is truly impressive. Low light (places where it’s hard for humans to see) photography has become easy. HDR, focus lock, exposure, and white balance settings are all easy to access and to change quickly in the stock camera app. Creating a panorama or creating a “photo sphere” are extremely easy because the app shows you circular guides that you just need to align in order for the software to process the image.
  • The fingerprint sensor makes security so easy and swiping down on it for notifications is such an innovative feature.
  • The feel in hand – they got the proportions right (for me at least). Great screen size and when I hold it in my right hand, I can easily hit the power button, volume buttons, and fingerprint sensor all without shifting my grip.
  • Near-stock Android is amazing. No more Verizon bloatware.
  • USB type-C connectors – no more sticking a cable in the wrong way.
  • Long holding on app shortcuts for specific actions is really convenient.
  • Verizon LTE cell coverage & speed are noticeable better and faster than with previous devices.
  • “Moves” – double tap power to open your choice of camera app from anywhere, double twist in camera to switch between main and front facing cameras, and swiping down on the fingerprint sensor to see notifications. They all work and are a great use of the phone’s buttons and sensors.
  • Google Photos – I’ve held off from using this service until I got this phone. Now I need to figure out how to upload 10 years of digital photos from my NAS to my Google account.
  • Pokémon Go now loads in 8 seconds instead of 2 minutes (yes I still play occasionally).

Things I don’t love:

  • The fingerprint sensor is on the back, so you have to pick up the phone if you want to use that unlock method.
  • Single speaker on the bottom. Sometimes I accidentally cover this mono source and wonder why there is no sound playing.
  • The price. Yeah. Hopefully I’m able to use this for at least 3-4 years or sell it for a decent amount.
  • The feel. It’s slightly slippery without a case (my case took over a week to arrive), which makes Michael anxious.
  • No official waterproofing. Although, these videos make me feel a lot better about that. (Pixel is only rated IP53. “5” = protected from limited dust ingress & “3” = protected from water spray less than 60 degrees from vertical.) My case should also help with this somewhat.
  • Screen lock stopped working – fixed on reboot. Don’t know if this had something to do with “safe spaces” or just with running without reboot for a week.
  • Home screen default weather/temperature widget doesn’t update – fixed on reboot. Don’t know what caused this.

Things I’m Missing:

  • Expandable Storage – I had to buy the 128GB version of the phone since there is no SD slot. I like to travel with lots of podcasts, audiobooks, music, and video content and have limited data so can’t store it all on the cloud.
  • Infrared Port – IrDA was a predecessor to Bluetooth, but is still commonly used in television remote controls. My past three phones (Palm Centro, HTC Droid Incredible, & Samsung Galaxy S4) all had this and it was useful for controlling televisions (at home or at a bar) when I occasionally had to do that.
  • Waiting for my frozen phone to respond or crash or overheat or just shut off entirely (jk)

Obviously none of these are deal breakers. I also still haven’t figured out exactly how good the battery is. If I’m running heavy screen-on & GPS tracking apps (Runkeeper or Pokémon Go) then it seems to be somewhere in the 4-6 hour range. When I just use is casually, it seems like it will easily last 10-12 hours without the battery saving mode enabled. With battery saver enabled, it would definitely last more than 12 hours with casual use.

A potato would probably be more useful than my old Galaxy S4, which shut off every time I used the flash and which also didn’t have a working power button -.-

Some photos casually taken with the Google Pixel:

Motion blur and quickly focusing seem to be an issue in low light situations (this is normal/expected/acceptable), but I wasn’t focused on taking great photos in these scenarios. I was just trying to get a shot and move on. The last shot of that beer can was taken at a dark beer garden bar in Philly – you can see the digital noise in the black areas from high auto ISO, but it is definitely usable and not an image that I could have gotten from my old phone or from typical consumer cameras. I’ll try to set up some pretty shots and take my time with getting focus correct and post an update soon hopefully.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go was released on 2016-07-06. For 4-6 weeks after that, Erin and I played it almost every single day. We took the dog to random parks for hours and explored and met people. Yesterday I finally broke the 100 mile mark playing it. That’s 100 miles that I would not have walked and run without a video game. That is something that I never thought would happen because of a game.

This game is everything that I wanted from Pokémon in 2001. It’s so exciting to have functional augmented reality. It’d be nice to have more functionality like trading and battling friends, but capturing Pokémon and battling gyms is fun. It’s really cool to see dozens of people out in parks playing a game and interacting with people who they never would have ever met. It’s fun to explore local towns and parks that I have never been to.

I’m only at level 21 and haven’t been playing much the past few weeks. I also have only 91 out of the possible 142 Pokémon available in North America. It takes a lot of time to get better, and I unfortunately do not have that right now. It’s just a fun game for me ^_^

Current highest level Pokémon
Current highest level Pokémon

yard sports

Erin designed and sewed some unique corn hole bags for our friends’ co-ed baby shower (“BabyQ” instead of BBQ) yesterday. They were received well. I painted a set of boards to match. It was a fun & busy & long day full of friends and family and children running around playing.

2016-08-15_cornhole_erin

Also since it was only 95° out, I decided to take my chainsaw out at 1300 to cut up a large branch that fell at my mother-in-law’s house. That was fun.

2016-08-15_chainsaw

drink local

This post was written on 2015-10-12 and revised, updated, and published on 2016-08-12. It’s sort of disjointed even though I already split it up into two separate posts, but I just wanted to be done with it, so I clicked publish.

Drinking local beverages, whether that be coffee, tea, soda, beer, wine, or liquors, is an extension of the recently popularized “eat local” movement. To people just a few generations ago, this idea would have been common sense, but capitalism and some wars and insane advertising happened and for several decades Americans have had options limited by just a few major producers with limited offerings and mediocre quality. Many local producers had to close up shop because they couldn’t match the prices of mass producers or meet the crazy regulations placed on them by the government.

The eating and drinking local movement has become popular again recently because, in my opinion, it is a way to support local artisans, businesses, and chefs. Supporting local shops has become a more normal thing to do and people have started to understand that it helps everyone involved and cycles money back into their own families and businesses, encourages diversity, strengthens the community, and is more sustainable (see this Time article or this Huffington Post article to learn more). People enjoy creating something unique and doing it for their own community and sharing it with their friends and neighbors. These products combine local ingredients, history, and names, are often higher quality than mass produced products, and are a reason to be proud of your local community.

Local craft breweries have been opening up all over the area and it’s really exciting to me. Within 10-15 miles there are several establishments that I can drive to for a good meal with delicious food and fresh beer. I can bring home a growler or stay a few hours to see local original music. It’s one of my favorite things. There are also local distilleries and meaderies and wineries and cideries and coffee roasters that are passionate about what they produce and are eager to share what they do with anyone who is interested.

Recently someone in my life asked what I was doing that weekend and I responded that I was attending a craft beer festival (Cheesetoberfest). That person then asked me what craft beer was. I did not know how to respond. It took me by surprise and it’s something that I thought every adult who isn’t living under an actual rock knows about.

One of the hardest things that I have learned about becoming an adult is realizing that not everyone in my life has had the same privileges or experiences. It’s weird to say, but craft beer and purchasing/drinking local is something that I am excited about. Not everyone understands this or understands how to brew beer or taste beer, but everyone can enjoy beer. It just takes time to communicate with people who may have a completely different perception of what beer is. Once someone can understand that and taste a style of beer that they enjoy, I feel like they get it. There is more out there than just American adjunct light lager.

The craft beer industry is complicated. I’ll eventually follow this up with a post about my thoughts on macro beer monopolies and craft beer ownership, but for now I’ll just say that you should know who makes the beer that you drink. Many local breweries make great beer, and we should be proud of that. Here is a map to show you where the closest brewery to your location in the USA.

Also, here is a photo of me and my wife at Cheesetoberfest, an excellent event run by Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company in Dover, DE: